DEAR ABBY: My 40-year-old son has been in a volatile on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who has physically and emotionally abused him repeatedly. He's an Iraq War veteran with issues of his own, including a previous marriage and messy divorce from a narcissistic woman. They share custody of two grade school-age children. The current woman has grown children, plus a pre-teen boy (with issues also). The last time they split up, my husband made it clear that she would never be welcome in our home again because of her violent temper. We don't condone that behavior.
Our son has now decided he thinks he "loves her." He wants us to give our blessing, including having her in our home and being one big happy family. We are sure this "reunion" will come with her assurances that she has changed, and it will never happen again.
Abby, we want our son to be happy, but we recognize that a leopard doesn't change her spots. We also don't want our young grandchildren in a toxic environment again. What should we do? Please don't tell me he needs to go to counseling because he says he is. Help! -- SEEING CLEARLY IN NEW YORK
DEAR SEEING: When you stated that your son is asking you for your blessing, including having this woman in your home and being one big happy family, did he mean living there with you? If that's not the case, you can bless it, but your answer should be no if it means they will live under your roof. It would be healthier for all of you if they have living arrangements of their own. That way, you can see her only when she is on her good behavior, and if she backslides, the drama won't be in your home. The added bonus is that your son will have a refuge if he needs it. (I'd give anything to know how his therapist views this.)Read more in: Family & Parenting | Marriage & Divorce
DEAR ABBY: This may seem like a trivial problem, but it has our little group of friends on the verge of breaking up. We meet monthly. There are seven of us.
Two of them don't want to exchange birthday presents when one or two of us have a birthday because they say they can't afford it. By the way, their lifestyle is quite lavish. The rest of us enjoy giving small gifts (and they are small -- less than $10), or a gift card for the restaurant we are meeting at that night. We have told them a card is fine.
They are now threatening to stop coming unless we stop giving gifts because it makes them feel bad. It seems like they don't want to make the effort, and we feel like we are being held hostage. What's the solution? We love these ladies and don't want them to stop coming. Christmas is approaching, and five of us want to exchange presents, but they don't. Thanks for your opinion. It will matter to all of us. -- TRADITIONALIST IN FLORIDA
DEAR TRADITIONALIST: Because these ladies are uncomfortable with the idea of exchanging gifts on special occasions, they should be told their presence is not expected when those exchanges happen -- specifically Christmas, birthdays, etc. There will still be plenty of other times to get together -- and that way no one will be uncomfortable. Under no circumstances should you allow them to dictate what the rest of you do!Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Holidays & Celebrations
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)